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Faberge egg sold for record $9.58 million

By FREDERICK M. WINSHIP

NEW YORK, April 19 (UPI) -- One of the few imperial Russian Easter eggs made by Faberge that are still in private hands was sold today at auction for $9,579,500 to an unidentified private collector, setting a world record for a work by Faberge.

The so-called Winter Egg Czar Nicholas II gave to his mother in 1913 was the object of spirited bidding at Christie's auction gallery as part of a large sale of important works by Carl Faberge, including 61 items from the collection of the late magazine publisher, Malcolm Forbes. The sale total for the Forbes material was $5,927,476.

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The Winter Egg was last sold by Christie's in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1994 for $5.6 million, the world record at that time for a Faberge item sold at auction. It was purchased by an anonymous private collector who consigned it to sale today in conjunction with the Forbes auction.

The egg is one of 50 made by the St. Petersburg jeweler for Czars Alexander III and Nicholas II from 1885 to 1916 for presentation to their wives and mothers at Easter. Fashioned of transparent rock crystal etched with snowflakes and resting on a crystal base polished to look like an iceberg, it is considered one of Faberge's loveliest creations.

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The hollow egg opens in two parts to reveal a double-handled trelliswork platinum basket filled with natural-looking white mountain anemones, one of the first blossoms of spring, growing out of a bed of moss. The flower petals are fashioned of white quartz embellished with green garnets and the moss is made of twisted threads of gold wire.

The exterior of the Winter Egg is embellished with 1,308 tiny rose-cut diamonds set in frost motifs and the iceberg base is laced with rivulets of platinum-mounted diamonds made to look like melting water. The basket handles are studded with another 1,278 rose diamonds.

The Winter Egg is believed to have been designed by Theresia Pihl, a Finnish woman who worked with her father in the Faberge workshop.

"The value of the diamonds may not be great, but the design is," commented Alexis de Tiesenhausen, head of Christie's Russian works of art department. "Something like this had never been done before."

Objects from the Forbes collection that went on the auction block included jewelry, clocks, picture frames, animals carved out of semi-precious stones, cigarette and snuff boxes, cane and parasol handles, and a model motor car in silver. Malcolm Forbes' son, Christopher, told United Press International the Forbes collection is being pared down by eliminating duplicates and secondary and overly large works.

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"We are making plans for the future of the collection, trying to get it down to manageable size," he said, adding that the collection will continue to be on permanent display at the Forbes headquarters building on New York's lower Fifth Avenue. It rivals the collections owned by Queen Elizabeth II, the Kremlin Museum in Moscow, and the Richmond, Va., art museum.

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